A Bengal e-rickshaw driver who ‘serves’ Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose
Watching Kalo Mallick’s popularity in Bagnan, both the Trinamool Congress and the CPI(M) requested him to contest the panchayat elections last year but he politely refused.Updated: Jan 23, 2019 13:10 IST
If you ever go to the Kachaipara area of Bagnan in Bengal’s Howrah district, about 55 km from Kolkata, and ask for Kalo Mallick, chances are people will stare at you blankly. But if you ask for ‘Netaji,’even a small kid will lead you to the mud hut of an e-rickshaw driver.
In Bagnan, the 50-year-old is almost as popular as the freedom fighter he worships since childhood.
Mallick never went to school and had to work as a labourer to fend for himself and his family. Yet, he was so influenced by the life of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose that the freedom fighter became his icon.
Unlike other e-rickshaw drivers who decorate their vehicles with photos of movie stars and religious characters, Mallick covered his rickshaw with photos and messages of Bose. He always wears khaki and sports a hat that somehow resembles the one his icon is famous for.
Sporting photos of Bose is not the only thing that makes Mallick famous.
He cleans and takes care of the statue of Bose near Bagnan railway station, a busy and congested area, and garlands it every day. He cleans statues of Netaji wherever and whenever he sees one.
If he finds a garland or flower he places it on the statue. “If I can’t find one, I stand silently in front of it with folded hands,” said Mallick.
January 23, Bose’s birthday, is a special day for Mallick. Every year, he distributes fruits and blankets among the poor and organises a small progrmme with the help of local people.
“Two years ago, I had to sell my pedal-rickshaw to buy blankets. My friends and local people lent me money to buy an used e-rickshaw. Since then some people help me observe the day,” he said.
“I respect my father for what he does. To us, this is service to the great freedom fighter,” said Iraf Ali Mallick, a wage labourer and the eldest among the rickshaw-puller’s three sons and a daughter.
Watching Mallick’s popularity, both the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) asked him to contest the panchayat elections last year on their ticket, but he politely refused.
“I have known Netaji only by hearing what people say about him. Whatever I have learnt is enough to make me realise that he left for us a great ideology, something politicians lack today. I will follow Netaji’s message till my last day,” Mallick says.
Mallick visited Netaji Bhavan, Bose’s residence, in 2015 and even met Krishna Bose, wife of Netaji’s nephew Sisir Bose.
“I want to visit the house in Cuttack, Odisha where Netaji was born. I am saving money,” said Mallick, who manages to earn barely Rs 200 every day.
“His dedication to Netaji always left us in awe. We lovingly call him Netaji for what he does,” said Ushiar Rahaman, a local resident.
“Mallick is our pride. People of Bagnan love and respect him,” remarked Arunava Sen, the local Trinamool MLA.